02/01/07 — Winter hits Wayne County

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Winter hits Wayne County

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on February 1, 2007 1:49 PM

From staff and wire reports

Snow blanketed Wayne County this morning, forcing the closing of the county's public schools and slowing traffic to a crawl along most roads.

The county school's issued a two-hour delay for today on Thursday but after the snowflakes starting falling in earnest about 8 a.m., school officials decided to go ahead and call off classes for the day.

Weather spotters at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base said they expected between a half-inch and an inch of the white stuff to fall. State forecasters were calling for the snow to stop by afternoon and turn to rain, with temperatures reaching only into the upper 30s.

The forecast for tonight was for rain to continue into Friday morning, with overnight lows in the mid 30s.

Law enforcement officials spent the morning responding to accidents around the county as drivers made their way on the newly fallen snow.

Officials said the worst intersection in the county this morning was U.S. 70 and Beston Road.

Still, with today's wintery conditions the worst of the season so far, some Goldsboro residents were stocking up on groceries and other necessities.

At the Ash Street Food Lion, assistant store manager Trevor Sutherland said they had seen an increase in traffic during the last two days.

"Last night and this morning, really," he said about 10 a.m. today. "We had a very late rush last night and again this morning.

"It's been like in spurts, but right now it's starting to get steady."

Others across the area also were preparing for the worst.

Progress Energy officials said they were prepared to restore power if there are any weather-related outages.

Company officials said that, because of the high call volume during a storm, the company has created an automated outage-reporting system by calling at 800-419-6356.

The winter storm's effects were being felt across the state, especially in the Piedmont and mountains, where forecasters warned that freezing rain could knock out power and make roads treacherous.

A winter storm warning was issued for most counties from Durham west to the Tennessee state line. Up to 4 inches of snow could accumulate along the western half of the North Carolina-Virginia border and the foothills, according to the National Weather Service.

Less than 2 inches of snow was forecast in other areas, while freezing rain was expected to cause problems in the Triad, said Scott Sharp, a meteorologist in the weather service's Raleigh office.

"This (storm) will probably be much more significant than we've had in the past weeks," Sharp said. "The main concern is that the freezing rain may last longer and be heavier than anticipated. We could get a pretty significant icing event."

Freezing rain also could cause problems from Charlotte up through Raleigh, where salt trucks began coating roads Wednesday in anticipation of a slow Thursday morning commute.

In Cumberland County, authorities said a school bus without any students slid into a truck. No injuries were reported.

Snow began falling in the Charlotte area about 5 a.m. Thursday and precipitation was expected to intensify throughout the morning, resulting in 3 to 5 inches of snow, forecasters said. The snow was expected to change to freezing rain and sleet in the afternoon.

Snow was already sticking to roads in Greensboro by 8 a.m. West of there, Duke Energy reported more than 300 power outages in Catawba and Lincoln counties and snow was also falling Thursday morning in the mountain counties of Henderson, Transylvania, Haywood, Jackson and Macon.

Crews from North Carolina's electric cooperatives were placed on standby as forecasters warned that the ice would be enough to bring down tree limbs and power lines.

On Wednesday, before the first flake hit the ground, several school districts announced school closings, including schools in Forsyth, Wake, Durham, Guilford and Orange counties. Several other school districts planned to open two or three hours late.

"It's going to be a painful day for a lot of folks," said Jonathan Blaes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

Crews from the state Department of Transportation treated highways and bridges Wednesday with salt brine and Gov. Mike Easley activated the state's Emergency Response Team.

The state Highway Patrol advised commuters to monitor weather reports and drive more carefully.

"The speed limit may say 55, it may say 45, but that doesn't mean you can travel at that speed," said patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin. "The number one type of collision we have is the rear-end fender-bender."